When did Vietnamese immigrants first arrive in Dorchester? How did this community got started?
It all began in 19751, when a small group of Vietnamese immigrants came and settled in Dorchester. Jobs became available to them, and housing was quite affordable.2 Their new neighborhood - as they had also observed, was close to Downtown Boston, and, Dorchester is in strategic zone in which public transportation is conveniently accessible It is in this Field Corners Neighborhood, in North Dorchester, that this Vietnamese American Community eventually came into being.
As the community assimilated, there were growing concerns of unmet needs among its members. As a number of social issues associated with cultural barriers seriously affected them. The first and the most obvious was that there was a language barrier. Many could not speak English4 and could not find the assistance they needed to qualify for public assistance. There were no after-school programs6 for their children. There were no Senior Citizens Programs5 in place. So growing older for them was perhaps an uncomfortable, and perhaps a socially avoidable topic altogether. Finally, local activists groups were not addressing these as well as other critical concerns7.
Current US Demographics
Statistics from the US Census Bureau, for Census 2000 reported there were approximately 1,122,5288 minority Asian Vietnamese in the United States. Vietnamese Americans are perhaps the fourth largest Asian minority group in the U.S., and, they are among the fastest growing minority groups in Boston.
Between the years 1990 and 2000, the Vietnamese American Community in Boston grew from 4,754 to 10,818 - an increase of 127.6%. In comparing this to the Chinese in Boston, which grew only 17.6% during the same period (from 16,701 - 19,638), we see that there is substantial migration or growth in this community to justify concerns voiced by Mr. Long Nguyen in Dorchester. These figures gives an example of the magnitude of growth taking place in Boston. Census 2000 also showed that out of a local population of approximately 29,000, in North Dorchester. ‘ Ethnic Asians’ represented 3,788 or 13.2 percent; and an increase of 2,198 or 6.9 percent, from 1990. 6 This information reveals a significant growth in population in this Asian American Community in Dorchester.
On the residential aspects of living here, statistics reveals that owner - occupied housing units for this district increased by .5% between 1990 and 2000, whereas, renter-occupied housing units increased by 12.1% during the same period. For South Dorchester, renter occupied units increased by only 4.%, during the same period. This information shows that renter occupied units has increase and, perhaps will increase in the near future as this small community here expands and make itself at home in Fields Corners. However, affordability is already an addressed issue in Boston where predominantly minorities live and work, so it is not an issue that this small community faces alone.
Also, average household size in North Dorchester's home renters changed within a 10-year period only by about one percent (1.00%). It remained the same at 2.94 percent, for owner-occupied homes, and for both owner-occupied and renter-occupied groups in South Dorchester (at 3.12% and 2.76%), respectively. Again, these patterns here in North Dorchester suggests that among the minority groups, there is a growing trend in this community, particularly, regarding renter-occupied affordable housing, that is economically feasible to its residents.
The Community Center
On November 2, 2002, the first Vietnamese American Community Center opened its doors to the Community on Charles Street, Dorchester.9 The Director of the Center, Mr. Long Nguyen, is a Vietnamese National by birth, who came to the United States in 1982 as a refugee. A Graduate of Boston University, he holds degrees in Economics, and Law. Part of his Work Experience includes being Executive Director of the Vietnamese American Civil Association (VACA). Mr. Nguyen has also worked on discrimination and eviction projects. Apart from being academically qualified for the role of Director in this Center, his rounded acumen of the needs and objectives of this growing community, Socially, Culturally (ethnically) and even politically, (though Mr. Nguyen claims he is not an advocate for political consortium) is just what this community needs. His experience is just what has made his leadership role especially unique, and promising to the Dorchester Community.
Before opening its doors to the community, I had been made aware of many interesting social issues from Mr. Nguyen, while visiting this Community Center on Saturday October 29, 2002. Mr. Nguyen's short-term goals are community ideals.
He is planning to work closely with the Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority, (MBTA10 ) to have murals painted on a huge wall located close to both the Center and the MBTA’s Fields Corners Station – perhaps a sort of artistic fusion. He also plans to work closely with other Asian Minority Civic Associations in the Metropolitan area to address local community concerns. His intention to form - in his own words - a “Parent Advisory Counsel” - particularly with Ethnic Vietnamese Parents, and, a Professor of Early Education, - is not far-fetched. Migrated families will also need (among other things) education and transitional assistance, and programs in Public Health to facilitate a modern socialization process. The objective of the Parent Advisory Counsel will be "to assess the compatibility and needs of the children and their culture . . . ." Indeed, nothing can be more critical than an assessment of the children’s educational needs. They are the community’s future. And, according to Mr. Nguyen: "There is a belief that building a Community Center will help improve neighborhood safety."11
1 Information obtained from Mr. Nguyen at the Dorchester Community Center on 10/29/2002
9 Information obtained from Mr. Nguyen at the Dorchester Community Center on 10/29/2002
10 Information obtained from Boston Banner?
11 Information obtained from Mr. Nguyen at the Dorchester Community Center on 10/29/2002